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Bertha Miller, 96; Resistance Worker Whose Story Has Been Twice Told

April 15, 2002|From a Times Staff Writer

Bertha Miller, a Polish-born Jew who worked in the French Resistance while her husband was imprisoned by Nazis during World War II, has died. She was 96.

Miller, whose life story has been featured in two books, died March 29 at her home in Berkeley after a short illness.

Born Brucha Gutrajman, she immigrated to France as a young woman to escape growing anti-Semitism in Poland. In Paris, she met and married another Polish refugee, George Miller (originally Melszpajz). They both worked in factories.

Bertha was a bobbin winder, replacing bobbins on a knitting machine in a clothing factory--a skill that later led to her four decades of working in Los Angeles' garment district.

As the war developed, George Miller joined the French army and was soon imprisoned by the invading Germans and taken to a labor camp in Germany.

His wife stayed behind, sent their small daughter, Odette, to live with a Catholic family in the countryside, and worked with the Resistance to hide other Jewish children, relay messages that helped damage the German war effort, and raise money for arms and ammunition. Fearing capture, she eventually fled to the country herself and lived quietly with her daughter in a small village until the family was reunited in Paris at war's end.

After the birth of their second daughter in 1949, the Millers immigrated to Los Angeles. Their story was told in the memoir "Doors to Madame Marie," published in 1997 by their older daughter, the late Odette Meyers. The couple's 70-year marriage was also featured in the 1996 book, "Living Happily Ever After--Couples Talk About Lasting Love."

Bertha Miller, who learned to swim at 72, competed in senior race-walking events well into her 80s and took classes in writing and yoga into her 90s, had completed her own memoirs.

The autobiography, still untitled, is scheduled to be published late this year by Creative Arts Book Co. of Berkeley.

She is survived by her husband, George; younger daughter, Anne-Marie Miller, both of Berkeley; and three grandchildren.

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